When you ask Rosa Maria how she feels about owning the top-selling Mercado Fresco store after only a few short months of operation, she responds, “Great. I knew I was going to be the best from the beginning.” The refreshing thing is that her confidence doesn’t come from arrogance; it comes from the self-awareness that she is a hard worker. And you understand why her confidence is so remarkable when you know the story of the first forty years of her life.
To say that those years were difficult would be an understatement. Rosa was raised by her mother and never knew her father. By age 20, she found herself a young, divorced single mother raising three children on her own. As do many women living in poverty in Nicaragua, she tried to provide for her family by selling food to neighbors, but it wasn’t enough. Her children were starving, and she felt that she had no other choice but to turn to sex work to put food on her table. She worked for nine years as a prostitute with Nicaraguan men who paid her 50 córdobas ($2 USD). Of that time, she says only that her constant thought was, “People say life is happy, but it’s not.”
One day, she was approached by a man who gave her a vision of a better life, free from prostitution. Father Oscar was from Casa Esperanza, an organization in Managua that helps women in the sex industry transform their lives. Without hesitation, she boarded the bus that took her to their office, joined their program, and started the process of finding freedom. Her desire was to change her life, but the question still remained: If she wasn’t going to earn money through prostitution, how would she earn enough money to provide for her family? After a few attempts to again sell food on her own, Casa Esperanza offered her a more viable solution by recommending her to an organization called Supply Hope.
And now her story continues to unfold. But it’s now a story of freedom and empowerment instead of one filled with pain. The Mercado Fresco delivery team cannot bring each next supply of products fast enough. Even with rapidly increasing quantities, she continues to sell all of her products every few days by constantly developing new creative marketing approaches. She is the example the Supply Hope training team uses to cast vision to new store owners about how their lives can be so much better. They’re able to share Rosa’s number one sales strategy: Be kind to people.
Some of the new things in Rosa Maria’s life are meeting physical needs: she and her second husband are beginning the process of a much needed expansion of their tiny home, tripling its size and adding real walls instead of the current scrap metal ones. They have food on the table every day, and she is living as a new model of success for her children. But you can’t “touch” some of the biggest changes that have taken place in her life: a heart that is slowly healing from years of tragedy and a newfound sense of confidence and dignity.